Two Arizona State University researchers, Richard Akis and Regent's Professor David Ferry, both of the electrical engineering department's Nanostructures Research Group, have proposed a solution to one of the most controversial of these conundrums and, in the process, may have taken a significant step toward realizing a quantum computing future. Their solution appeared in a special April 2008 issue of the Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter.
Two basic requirements of any computer are the capacity to store a value (information) and the ability to read that value. Yet even these most basic requirements present cutting-edge challenges to quantum physicists.
Today's computers store data logically as bits—ones and zeroes represented physically as positive or negative charges in a storage medium. Quantum computers, conversely, will store data logically as quantum bits, or "qubits"—an entire range of values represented physically by an electron's angle of spin.
Electrons and other subatomic particles spin like tiny tops, complete with tilt, or "precession." Since there are an infinite number of angles at which an electron can tilt, there are theoretically an infinite number of values that a qubit can store. Practically speaking, however, the number of available values will be constrained by technology and other theoretical limitations of computer science.
Currently, researchers are hard pressed to build even simple quantum computers. The problem is that quantum states are notoriously difficult to pin down and measure. Akis and Ferry's research, combined with that of former ASU colleague Jonathan Bird, could yield insights that help solve these problems.
Bird, now at University of Buffalo, has made important strides toward measuring quantum states using "entanglement," a characteristic of quantum mechanics by which two quantum particles interact at a distance. His measurement technique is based on quantum states produced by electron-electron interactions.
"This is like the 'readout' of a spin," Akis says. "It all has to do with e-e interactions, but from a remote distance."
Bird's method is only useful, however, if it has something to measure and a theory to back it up, but electron-electron interactions are complex and poorly understood. Indeed, simple quantum mechanics models often ignore electron-electron interactions entirely, instead relying on "one-electron approximation" models, which leave a number of questions unanswered.
Akis and Ferry were wrestling with one of the most controversial of these questions when they came up with a model that explained the electron-electron interactions Bird was measuring. They immediately saw the potential.
"Bird's experiment is more than a pretty measurement—there are indications that you could use this in quantum computing applications," Ferry says.
Their findings could also have important implications for quantum data storage. One way to store qubits is via a quantum point contact (QPC)—the quantum equivalent of a computer gate. Generally, the quantum behavior of electrons is represented by a stair-step graph of the conductance of these gates. Usually, the steps are either twice or half of a particular conductance value, and work just fine under a simple one-electron approximation model. Electrons are simply treated like bullets shooting through gates and not interacting with their other electrons.
These models fail to explain at least one odd case, however, which inspired the Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter to dedicate an entire issue to papers addressing it. The case breaks the usual pattern of QPC conductance plateaus, occurring at the 70 percent mark instead of half or twice a particular conductance value.
Akis and Ferry skipped the one-electron approximation and showed that the odd behavior at the 70 percent mark was due to interactions between up- and down-spinning electrons. This explanation means that the oddball conductance plateau can be read using Bird's method and provides an explanation for the electron-electron interactions that the method measures.
"We all use the same basic ideas—everyone agrees that you have to have e-e interactions or some manifestation of that," Akis says. "But the complete explanation is still kind of up in the air. A lot of it is based upon the model you use."
According to Akis and Ferry, electrons passing through QPCs react to them much as water would react to a series of hills and valleys. Electrons of one type of spin find it easier to clear these "hills" than electrons of the opposite spin, which mostly rebound away. Thus sorted, the particles that cleared the hills can be partially confined via a hole in the middle of the gate, resulting in a local spin polarization that can be measured via Bird's entanglement method.
"Bird's experiment is the kind of thing where you say to yourself, 'well, this could start to nail down what's really going on,'" Akis says.
Skip Derra | EurekAlert!
Unprecedented insight into two-dimensional magnets using diamond quantum sensors
26.04.2019 | Universität Basel
Liquid crystals in nanopores produce a surprisingly large negative pressure
26.04.2019 | The Henryk Niewodniczanski Institute of Nuclear Physics Polish Academy of Sciences
For the first time, physicists at the University of Basel have succeeded in measuring the magnetic properties of atomically thin van der Waals materials on the nanoscale. They used diamond quantum sensors to determine the strength of the magnetization of individual atomic layers of the material chromium triiodide. In addition, they found a long-sought explanation for the unusual magnetic properties of the material. The journal Science has published the findings.
The use of atomically thin, two-dimensional van der Waals materials promises innovations in numerous fields in science and technology. Scientists around the...
Flexible, organic and printed electronics conquer everyday life. The forecasts for growth promise increasing markets and opportunities for the industry. In Europe, top institutions and companies are engaged in research and further development of these technologies for tomorrow's markets and applications. However, access by SMEs is difficult. The European project SmartEEs - Smart Emerging Electronics Servicing works on the establishment of a European innovation network, which supports both the access to competences as well as the support of the enterprises with the assumption of innovations and the progress up to the commercialization.
It surrounds us and almost unconsciously accompanies us through everyday life - printed electronics. It starts with smart labels or RFID tags in clothing, we...
The human eye is particularly sensitive to green, but less sensitive to blue and red. Chemists led by Hubert Huppertz at the University of Innsbruck have now developed a new red phosphor whose light is well perceived by the eye. This increases the light yield of white LEDs by around one sixth, which can significantly improve the energy efficiency of lighting systems.
Light emitting diodes or LEDs are only able to produce light of a certain colour. However, white light can be created using different colour mixing processes.
Researchers led by Francesca Ferlaino from the University of Innsbruck and the Austrian Academy of Sciences report in Physical Review X on the observation of supersolid behavior in dipolar quantum gases of erbium and dysprosium. In the dysprosium gas these properties are unprecedentedly long-lived. This sets the stage for future investigations into the nature of this exotic phase of matter.
Supersolidity is a paradoxical state where the matter is both crystallized and superfluid. Predicted 50 years ago, such a counter-intuitive phase, featuring...
A stellar flare 10 times more powerful than anything seen on our sun has burst from an ultracool star almost the same size as Jupiter
17.04.2019 | Event News
15.04.2019 | Event News
09.04.2019 | Event News
26.04.2019 | Life Sciences
26.04.2019 | Physics and Astronomy
26.04.2019 | Physics and Astronomy